2008 European Brass Band Championships - 75 useless facts and figures


All you really need to know about the European Contest to impress your friends. If you have any that is if you know this lot...

European1. The first European Championships took place on Sunday 8th October 1978 at the Royal Albert Hall London. 

2. 14 bands were invited from 11 countries, although the Dutch representative, Brass Band Rotterdam dropped out before the day.

3. The first band to perform at the Championships were Templemore from Northern Ireland, who played "Introduction, Elegy and Caprice" by Morley Calvert.

4. Calvert was in fact Canadian, so what on earth he was doing writing for the European is a bit of a mystery.

5. Possibly the band with the longest name in the Championships history played number six that day. Feldmusikgesellschaft Frohsinn Schotz conducted by A. Winkler.

6. Amazingly they also played perhaps the "Own Choice" work with the longest single name when they performed "Herbstimpressionen" by Albert Benz later that afternoon.

7. Top prize was £1000, whilst the runners up got £750 plus the Hammond's Sauce Challenge Trophy, which was in fact a small statuette of a cartoon owl holding a bottle of Chop Sauce on top of a small wooden plinth.

8. No one knows what happened to this great prize although it was still around in the early 1980's. Does someone know where it is?

9. The first winners, Black Dyke Mills, have gone on to win the trophy 11 times, whilst the next best record goes to the reigning champions Yorkshire Building Society with 8 titles.

10. The other winners have been Brighouse and Rastrick and Brass Band Willebroek 2 times; Eikanger Bjorsvik Musikklag 2 times. The Cory Band, Desford Colliery, Britannia Building Society, Williams Fairey have lifted the title once each.

11. Of the bands on show this year in Birmingham, none took part in the first contest – the Cory Band and Brass Band Treize Etoiles took part in the next one as did Scottish Co-op (as CWS Glasgow) and Kortrijk from Belgium.

12. The best record of the conductors goes to Professor David King with 10 victories (8 with YBS and 2 with Black Dyke), then Major Peter Parkes with 8 wins (7 with Black Dyke and 1 with Williams Fairey) and Howard Snell has 4 to his name (2 with Eikanger and 1 each with Desford and Britannia Building Society) and Frans Violet (Willebroek 1993 and 2006).

13. The remaining wins have gone to Allan Withington (Brighouse 1998), James Watson (Black Dyke 1995), James Scott (Brighouse 1981) and Denzil Stephens (Cory 1980).

14. The first 5 championships were held at the Royal Albert Hall, the last in 1982. It has not been back since.

15. England has hosted the vent the most times (10 times), whilst the contest has also been held 5 times in Holland, Norway, Scotland and Switzerland 3 time each, twice in Wales, and once each in Northern Ireland, Germany, Denmark, Luxembourg and Belgium this year.

16. The first non-English band to win the title in the first decade of its existence was The Cory Band under Denzil Stephens in 1980.

17. The first European band to win the title was Eikanger Bjorsvik Musikklag in 1988 and again in 1989 under Howard Snell. Brass band Willebroek have since repeated the feat.

18. Denzil Stephens was also the first non-English conductor to win the title as he was in fact born in the Channel Islands. Frans Violet was the first European conductor to win the title and David King was the first non-European to lift the crown.

19. YBS hold the record of most consecutive wins – 6 in a row between 1999 and 2004.

20. Of the set works used at the Championships, only two (Journey into Freedom) have ever been used as a set work for the British National Championships, and that was in 1967 – 15 years prior to its use in 1982. The other was "Connotations" which was used here in 1988, 11 years after its use at London in 1977.

21. "Salamander" and "Connotations" are the two works that have been used both here and at the British Open in 1983 and 1994 respectively. They were joined by "St. Magnus" in 2004.

22. The first European venue for the contest was in 1983, when the contest took place in Kerkrade in the Netherlands. It returned back there again in 1998.

23. Philip Sparke has had 4 works used as the set work for the championships in the top section and one in the First Section. These have been "Land of the Long White Cloud" – 1980; "Year of the Dragon" – 1986; "London Overture" – 1991 and "Tallis Variations" – 2000. "Entertainments" was used as the First Section set work in 1997.

24. The famous old trophy which was used up to 2004 itself represented the countries of the then Common Market imposed on a treble clef constructed of the five lines of the stave. It has not been updated to include the new countries that have now joined the European Union (25 and counting).

25. It was designed by Christopher Milton Stevens and presented to the winning band in 1981.

26. Before then the top band were presented with the trophy that now goes to the band that comes third overall. 

27. The closest a European band came to winning the contest in the first five years was when Manger Musikklag came second in 1981, behind Brighouse and Rastrick by a point. They were conducted by Michael Antrobus.

28. The Hammonds Sauce Trophy and the owl were still being used in 1984, when Whitburn kept it in Scotland.

29. Howard Snell won his first European title in 1986 in Cardiff, when he directed Desford Colliery to victory, but amid controversy as Desford used Snell's own amazing arrangement of "Daphnis and Chloe" as their own choice selection. It was the first time an orchestral arrangement had been used as an own choice selection. It didn't win though, coming second behind Black Dyke's ‘Contest Music'.

30. The second time the event came to Cardiff in 1992, it also ended in controversy as officials failed to add up the aggregate scores correctly and placed bands in the wrong order. It has yet to return to the Principality.

31. The year before the contest was held in Rotterdam and the original set work, "Aragorn" by Hardy Meartens was dropped amid arguments about its suitability. It required five percussionists and was replaced by Philip Sparke's "London Overture".

32. The first European Champions from the European continent were Eikanger Bjorsvik Musikklag who won the title in 1988 and again 1989. The only other winners from the European mainland have been Willebroek in 1993 and again in 2006.

33. The 1995 contest was held in Luxembourg and the prizes were offered in ECU's for the first time. Top prize was 3000 ECU's, which was about £2500 at the time.

34. The Hammond's Sauce owl had flown the nest by 1986, so we think the last winners were the Sun Life Band who came 3rd in Copenhagen in 1985. It was replaced by the much more sober Besson Salver. Where is the owl today though? Does anyone know?

35. Black Dyke won the 1991 title in Rotterdam without actually winning either section of the contest. They were placed second to Britannia in the set work and second again to Willebroek in the own choice selection, but still took the title by 2 points.

36. 1992 saw Britannia produce one of the truly great own choice performances when they scored 98pts on "Year of the Dragon" to follow their win on the set work and take the title by 6 points from Black Dyke.

37. 1993 saw a repeat of 1991 when Willebroek became the second European band to take the title, even though they could only come 5th on the set work (Sounds) and 2nd on the own choice (Variations on an Enigma).

38. Willebroek actually tied with Williams Fairey for the top prize, but took the title as they came 5th to Fairey's 6th on the set work.

39. The tie occurred again in 1995 when Black Dyke won the title by virtue of a 3 point margin on the set work over eventual runners up Williams Fairey. That result was reversed in the afternoon but the set work marks took precedent.

40. The First Section contest started in 1994, where the first winners were Froschl Hall of Austria. They have since gone onto win the title on three more occasions.

41. 1996 saw Yorkshire Building Society win their first title, when they triumphed by a one point margin from Black Dyke. Even more remarkable was that they won after being drawn number 1 in both sections of the contest.

42. YBS triumphed again at the Barbican in London the following year, but once again the winners triumphed without winning any of the sections. Grimethorpe took the set work honours and Tredegar won the own choice section. YBS came 2nd and 3rd respectively and won the title from CWS Glasgow after the two tied for the top spot.

43. 1998 saw Brighouse take their second European title – 17 years after they first won it, when they triumphed in Kerkrade. They came second on the set work and won the own choice section playing "Contest Music".

44. Brighouse declined to defend their title in 1982 and so had to wait all that time before qualifying again. They won on both occasions.

45. The 1998 result was also famous for YBS coming 4th, even though they won the morning section. Playing "Blitz" as their own choice selection they brought the house down but only could come 8th and this dropped them from the prizes.

46. 1998 saw the introduction of the First Young Composers Contest. The joint winners were Bertrand Moren and Dag Egil Njaa.

47. YBS regained their title in 1999, when for the first time they won the "own choice" section with a performance of "Harmony Music". They pipped De Bazuin Oenkerk from Holland into second place.

48. 1999 saw the first European Solo Competition – won by Thomas Ruedi of Switzerland on euphonium.

49. The Millennium Championships took place at Symphony Hall in Birmingham. YBS make it two in a row, winning by 2 points from Eikanger. YBS won the morning set work, whilst Eikanger won the afternoon own choice – but it's not enough.

50. Jose Rafael Pascual of Spain becomes the first winner of the European Conductor's Competition.

51. Adjudicator's remark sheets are scrapped in 2000. From now on it's points only and no written remarks.

52. YBS make it a hat trick in 2001 when they take their fifth title in six years. It's perhaps the closest contest ever with the top three bands separated by just the one point. If any of either Cory or Trieze Etoiles were given an extra point the title would have been theirs.

53. In 2001, 14 year old Hannes Holzl wins the 2nd European Solo Competition. The amazing trombonist from Austria beats off a field of 63 other competitors.

54. Adjudicator Henk van Lijnschooten who judged on a number of occasions in the early and mid 1980's was perhaps better known by his alias – Ted Huggens of "Chorale and Rockout" fame.

55. In 1982 it was reported that the adjudicators were "boxed in" for the first time – whether this was a reference to them being subject to "closed adjudication" we don't know.

56. In 1981 the British Bandsman revealed the pieces to be played by the bands before the contest took place in their issue numbered 4120 – now wouldn't that cause a fuss if we did that eh?

57. Harry Mortimer made his only appearance as an adjudicator at a major contest (he never judged the Nationals or Open) when he was in the box for the 1983 event in Kerkrade with William Relton and Henk Badings.

58. Team events took place at the 1984 and 1985 contests when UK bands took on European bands in Entertainment contests. The Europeans won both!

59. In 1984 a new adjudication system was used when points for the set work were awarded out of 120, whilst points for the own choice were awarded out of 80. It has never been used again.

60. Some great old names of the British banding world have made a single appearance at the contest over the years – Walter Hargreaves – "The Wee Professor" directed Kirkintilloch in 1984, Stanley Boddington conducted Grimethorpe in 1978, Geoffrey Brand appeared with Sun Life in 1985 and Roy Newsome made his single appearance in 1987 with Williams Fairey.

61.  In 2004 the Third European Solo Contest was won by Raf Van Looveren who played with the Willebroek Band. He ha since also played with the Sellers International Band winning the ‘Best Instrumentalist' award at the 2004 British Open Championships.

62.  2005 sees the first European Championship run by EBBA without sponsorship from Besson Ltd. The decision was made in late 2004 by Besson that they would ask a private company to run their own European event in 2006.

63.  The YBS decided not to defend their title in 2005 – only the second band in the history of the event to decide not to do this after Brighouse and Rastrick in 1982.

64.  2005 saw the sixth occasion that the set work from the previous year has been used by a band the following year as their own choice selection. Brass Band Lyngby Taarbaek played ‘St. Magnus' in 2005 after playing it as a set work the year before.

The first time was in 1983, when Brass Band Berneroberland chose ‘Journey Into Freedom', the second when Desford chose to play ‘Year of the Dragon' in 1987, the third when Whitburn chose ‘Frontier' in 1988, the fourth with Conservatoire d'Esch played ‘Trittico' in 1990, the fifth with Tredegar and ‘Essence of Time' in 1991 which was the set work a year previously in London. It occurred again in 2006 with Extreme Make Over after it was used as the set work the year before.

65.  2005 sees three bands play the same own choice work, 'Music of the Spheres' as their own choice selection. However, the record for bands picking the same piece is in 1997 when five bands picked ‘Pageantry' by Herbert Howells. In 1993 four bands chose ‘Paganini Variations' by Philip Wilby.

66. The record for bands picking a single composers music at one contest is six – both for Philip Sparke's works in 1994 and 1995 (as well as 2008), as well as for Philip Wilby in 2003 and 2004. Good old Gilbert Vinter got a nap hand of five in 1980 and 1983.

67. Not one arranged orchestral work has proven successful as an own choice item at the contest in its history. The best so far has been Howard Snell's ‘Daphnis and Chloe' that brought the house down in Cardiff in 1986 but still couldn't beat Black Dyke's ‘Contest Music'. They did win overall though.

68. Philip Sparke leads the way in pieces chosen as own choice works by bands at the contest. 2008 sees the 67th performance of one of his works. Philip Wilby comes second with 39 and Gilbert Vinter and Edward Gregson are joint third with 36 apiece.

69. Composers who have had only the one work performed over the years as an own choice include Sir Dean Goffin, Elgar Howarth, John Golland, Goff Richards, Arthur Butterworth and Denis Wright. Less well known as Messers' Segers, Benz, Svedsen and Price. Who knows though?

70. All 13 performances of Wilfred Heaton's compositions come from ‘Contest Music' – from 1978 – 2007. Not another work of his has featured.

71. The premiere of ‘Elgar Variations' in Birmingham was appropriate as in 1900 Elgar himself premiered ‘The Dream of Gerontius' here as well.  

72. Simon Dobson is the first winner of the European Composer's competition to write a piece for the contest, with his ‘The Drop' for Section B in 2007.

73. 2008 sees two debutants to the contest (78 bands have now taken part in the Elite Section) with Cory making its 19th appearance this year – a record.

74. Stavanger becomes the second Norwegian city to host the event. England leads the way with four different venues - London, Nottingham, Birmingham and Plymouth. Scotland can boast Edinburgh, Glasgow and Falkirk and the Netherlands, Kerkrade, Rotterdam and Groningen.

75. The Fourth European Conductor’s Competition takes place in 2008 with 3,500 Euros for the winner. Past victors include Jose-Raphael Pascual of Spain (2000); Jesper Sorensen of Denmark (2003) and Christian Radner of Austria in 2005. None however has yet to conduct a band in the Elite contest here. 


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